The kings are dead. Long live the kings?

Pogba and Neymar have shared the throne at the very top of the Football Index for as long as I can remember but it looks like their reign is coming to an end. Today, Jadon Sancho overtook Pogba, with Mbappe already having forced Neymar into 4th place. Is this a permanent changing of the guard or will they find it difficult to sustain their lofty positions, due to their relative lack of PB and MB?

Neymar and Pogba are dividend dreams. When he plays, Neymar is the king of PB, with an average of 158 (the best on the Index) and 6 scores over 200. Pogba has almost matched Neymar for PB dividends, despite having a much lower average of 100 – largely because he’s been on the pitch a lot more, with Neymar spending a high proportion of the last two seasons out due to injury.

Media dividends is a similar story. Neymar racked up £1 in MB wins last season, including 19 in first place. Pogba smashed MB, with a total of £2.09 in wins, including 71 in first place. If the value of players is meant to be underpinned by their dividend potential, then it’s easy to see why these two have been at the top of the tree for so long. But it’s also easy to understand why they’ve both been sliding lately.

So what happened? Pogba’s gradual slide is linked to the fear he’ll move away from Man United. He’s made it pretty clear that he wants to go so we can assume it’s just a matter of time (and the fact that he’s stopped making statements to the media might indicate that some sort of deal has already been done, where he plays one more year with United then gets the move he wants). Out of the EPL we can presume his MB pull is reduced (look at Eden Hazard) so a drop in value makes sense. This has been compounded by the recent news that he might have lost his penalty taking duties, or at least have to share them now, which is an issue given that penalties were one of the key reasons behind his PB wins.

Neymar’s situation is a bit more complicated. He’s had a few injury worries and, like Pogba, he’s almost downed tools to ask for a move – but as he’s not in the EPL, a move in itself doesn’t necessarily hurt his MB appeal. The main fear in traders’ minds is that he’ll end up at Barcelona, in a harder league, competing with Messi for PB. The jury is out on this I think – La Liga is definitely tougher that Ligue 1 but it’s not the EPL, and having Messi alongside him could have the effect of boosting his scores. He might also find himself playing more games as Barcelona are likely to progress further in Europe than PSG. If he can stay fit, I see no reason why he shouldn’t still rack up the dividends.

So what about the new kings? Are they overvalued or is there some sense in what’s happening with Sancho and Mbappe? It goes without saying that both have youth on their side, at 19 and 20 years old respectively. Mbappe had a PB average of 110 last year, no doubt helped by the 38 goals he scored, and managed a couple of PB wins. Sancho’s average was lower at 89, and he didn’t managed any PB wins, but he did manage 5 MB wins, to Mbappe’s 2. So far, so average.

That’s the picture now, but the future may be quite different. Generally, young players post much lower PB scores than older players. We could reasonably expect Sancho and Mbappe to hit their peak between 25 – 27 years old, meaning we can’t judge them simply on the scores they are posting now. Aside from a few notable exceptions (Fabian Ruiz, Frenkie De Jong, Havertz, Rodri) there are very few attack-minded under-23s posting averages of over 100, so Mbappe looks very good value on that basis and Sancho isn’t too far behind him.

The other question is whether Sancho and Mbappe have the personas to take the spotlight from the current media kings – and this is less clear. Journalists like to focus on a few household names and churn out stories about them over and over again (whether true or not) as they know this sells papers/clicks – hence why MB can be so lucrative for traders. If we assume that Pogba and Neymar will keep playing into their mid-thirties, this means that Sancho and Mbappe could have a long wait to dethrone them. On the other hand, Ronaldo and Messi will be gradually drifting out of the limelight in the next few years so that could mean that there is room for Sancho and Mbappe to take over some of their column inches.

There’s a story to write about for each of them – for Sancho, the fact that he’s English underpins his price, especially as it’s assumed he’ll eventually transfer back to the EPL, and he’s expected to have a key role in the Euros next year. Mbappe is the most valuable player in the world and already a World Cup winner. He’s seen as a bit of a nice guy (he apparently donated his World Cup bonus to sick kids) but has also begun to assert himself in the PSG dressing room. He’s more of a household name than Sancho, albeit nowhere near the level of Neymar or Pogba.

So, is this a glitch in the matrix or can we expect to see Sancho and Mbappe continuing their reign for the foreseeable future? I would expect so. The trend for investing in future dividend potential (i.e.; youth), rather than actual dividend yield, shows no sign of slowing down. Looking at the top 15 players right now, there’s the potential for Joao Felix, Rashford, Hudson-Odoi, Greenwood, Havertz and Foden to nudge their way even further towards the top within the coming weeks.

In fact, it’s almost as if there are two separate ways that traders are playing the Index right now – investing in youth for long-term CA (and seeing this as a fairly safe place to stash the cash), whilst using a separate pot of money to jump on players in-play to win IPDs and a bit of short-term CA (for quick wins and the gambling ‘rush’). As the Index grows and matures, the days of sitting on high-yielding PB players for weeks on end might be a thing of the past, and perhaps we all need to be prepared to adapt to that.

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